The federal labour minister says she will not legislate striking OC Transpo workers back to work.

Rather, Rona Ambrose says it's up to both sides to return to the bargaining table.

"The quickest way for buses to get back on the streets is for both of these parties, both the union and the city, to get back to the table and come up with a negotiated agreement," Ambrose said on Wednesday.

"If they so choose, they could have buses back on the street quite quickly, so it's the responsibility of both these parties to get back to work."

Now, for the first time since Christmas, both sides are talking with a mediator.

"Since last week, the parties have held informal discussions with the federal mediators in effort to keep a dialogue open on a possible settlement. The parties have also agreed to a media blackout regarding these discussions," said Mayor Larry O'Brien.

During an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon, Ottawa city council approved $500,000 in additional funding to help people who need emergency transportation or are at risk of losing their jobs.

A $200,000 emergency fund ran out in just 10 days and social agencies have barely been able to keep up with the demand.

"It's not possible for everybody, but we're trying as much as possible for those who have a need, to ensure at least basic needs are met. Critical ones are medical appointments first and making sure you have enough food or things of that nature,' said Coun. Marianne Wilkinson.

Still, many Ottawa residents say the transit strike is wearing them down.

"I feel very isolated. I cannot visit any friends. I feel held hostage right now," Hanna Schoots told CTV Ottawa.

"I feel lonely because I'm an immigrant. I don't have a family. I don't have a support system, so sometimes I feel very depressed."

Although the city is offering services to residents who are unable to get to medical appointments, Schoots says her request to get a ride to visit her family doctor was turned down.

"They told me it's not important to help me to go to the doctor's appointment because it was just a family doctor that they are only doing emergencies to see a specialist," Schoots said.

Contract talks between the two sides broke off Dec. 23. The main sticking point of the contract dispute remains bus driver scheduling.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Vanessa Lee